Stu­dents project the fu­ture

While ri­ot­ing stu­dents made head­lines, Dur­ban’s engi­neer­ing stu­dents shaped our to­mor­rows

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - AL­WYN VILJOEN

MORE than a 100 fourth-year stu­dents at Howard Col­lege Cam­pus in Dur­ban last week showed their fi­nal year projects, and as al­ways left the ob­servers mar­vel­ling at their in­ge­nu­ity.

The stu­dents’ projects range from an au­to­mated pet feeder to a teleme­try sys­tem that can drive any elec­tri­cal ve­hi­cle.

Se­nior lec­turer in Com­puter Engi­neer­ing Pro­grammes Dr Thamid Quazi said the projects con­trib­uted the most cred­its to­wards the stu­dent’s hon­ours de­gree. The project nom­i­nated for a na­tional ter­tiary de­sign com­pe­ti­tion is a generic plat­form de­signed by Robert Maw­bey to drive any type of ve­hi­cle that is driven by elec­tric mo­tors.

Maw­bey said he de­cided to build a mod­u­lar sys­tem when he de­signed the tele­met­rics for the UKZN so­lar race car, so that he did not need to rein­vent the wheel if he wanted to use his sys­tem to steer any­thing from hull-in­spect­ing sub­marines to aerial drones.

He proved his sys­tem dur­ing the 2015 Bridge­stone So­lar Car Chal­lenge and said the ra­dio con­trols work up to one kilo­me­tre. He then spent three weeks and a bud­get of only R2 000, wrote all soft­ware us­ing C#, and built all the hard­ware us­ing an off-the-shelf tank-track and GPS equip­ment.

Other projects that may ex­cite in­vestors are: • Shivar Dhur­gaduth’s smart spec­ta­cles that out­line mov­ing ob­jects in real time for par­tially sighted peo­ple; • Ash­lin Naicker de­signed a ro­botic picker that can be con­trolled us­ing any An­droid phone, and can scale up to carry heavy bar­rels over rough sur­faces with­out spilling the con­tents; • an app-driven sys­tem by Pri­vaan Ram­chun­der that al­lows users to al­lo­cate power from a so­lar panel so that it charges only se­lected de­vices; • Bandile Mchunu’s in­duc­tion hot plate that can boil wa­ter in suit­able plas­tic bot­tles us­ing only so­lar power; and • Saing Maulidi’s per­ma­nent mag­net syn­chro­nous mo­tor that uses lock-up ta­bles to man­age ex­po­nen­tial torque, and which can turn any diesel truck into a diesel-elec­tric hy­brid.

LEFT: Robert Maw­bey has a unique, but proven, one-siz­e­fits-all ap­proach to evee con­trol.

PHO­TOS: AL­WYN VILJOEN

RIGHT: Brian Bas­sett tries to con­trol Ash­lin Naicker’s ro­botic picker.

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